Man who lost £160m hard drive after ex threw it out threatens to sue council
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A man from Newport has become locked in a battle with the City Council after he requested permission to go digging around a landfill site for a piece of lost treasure.
James, a former IT systems engineer, said his ex-partner accidentally threw out the hard drive which contains 8,000 Bitcoin back in 2013.
For those who are unfamiliar with how much Bitcoin is worth, at the time of writing the valuation of just one unit of the cryptocurrency was just over £20,700. And this hard drive has 8,000 of them on it.
A little bit of arithmetic reveals that this means there is a hard drive worth over £160m potentially lying in a landfill in Newport.
All James has to do now is find it again, but there's just one problem.
Newport City Council has repeatedly refused to grant James' requests to access the landfill site where he believes the hard drive has ended up.
It has cited permit issues at the site, but has also said that there is little realistic prospect that James will be able to locate the iPhone-sized hard drive.
But James is not impressed with the response, and has even threatened to begin legal proceedings if the council does not grant him access to the site to search it.
In a letter to Newport City Council, he said: “Newport City Council continues to ignore our requests for a meeting, a genuine sit-down conversation, to figure out a way forward. They continue to stonewall us.
"The only option left is legal action. I have three barristers [Dean Armstrong KC, Bruce Drummond and Maria Mulla] on board and we are willing to take them all the way to the High Court and Supreme Court if necessary.”
The 38-year-old also claimed that he still has a proprietorial right over the coins, saying: “It’s ridiculous that they have not had a conversation with us about how to do this safely, without damaging the environment, at no cost to the council.
“The value of the coins is still viable and will grow over time."
Nonetheless, he does accept that there is a possibility that the hard drive will be damaged.
James said: "We could find it and it could be cracked into a million pieces. I accept that. But we could find it and it could be stuck under something and be fine - that is just as likely. We just don’t know.”
However, he determined to find out, and has given the council until 18 September before he starts legal action.
A Newport City Council spokesperson said: "Newport City Council has been contacted multiple times since 2013 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain bitcoins, which may or may not be in our landfill site.
"The council has told Mr Howells multiple times that excavation is not possible under our environmental permit, and that work of that nature would have a huge negative environmental impact on the surrounding area. The council is the only body authorised to carry out operations on the site.
"We have been very clear and consistent in our responses that we cannot assist Mr Howells in this matter. Our position has not changed. We will be offering no further comments on this issue as it takes up valuable officer time which could be spent on delivering services for the residents of Newport."